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Key Stage 3 

Purpose of study: Music is a universal language that embodies one of the highest forms of creativity. A high quality music education should engage and inspire pupils to develop a love of music and their talent as musicians, and so increase their self-confidence, creativity and sense of achievement. As pupils progress, they should develop a critical engagement with music, allowing them to compose, and to listen with discrimination to the best in the musical canon. - National Curriculum DfEd  

At Beaconsfield High School our focus at KS3 is to give all pupils significant musical experiences through practical composition and performance based study. Music lessons are practical, rigorous, theoretically grounded and contextualised. The aim is to give all pupils a basis for continuing their music-making beyond KS3 whether they choose to take GCSE level or not.

Each project will include:

  • Integration of Practice – playing, listening, composing (knowing through doing)

  • Cultural Understanding – Why does this music exist? Who plays it/listens to it?

  • Critical Understanding – What are the important musical features that are essential to this type of music?

  • Creativity – Opportunities to make something new based on musical features

  • Communication – What is this music ‘saying?’ What can I make my music ‘say’?

All pupils will develop their singing voice and their piano skills at KS3 as these are the two most useful and easily accessible instruments for all pupils. Instrumental work in lessons allows them to explore musical features in a range of styles and key features such as melody, chords and notation can be easily taught in large groups. All pupils will be taught piano and guitar skills and if they already play an instrument they should be using this to compose/perform when appropriate.

Topics covered during KS3 include: African Drumming, Blues and Jazz, Samba, Ground Bass, Creative Composition & Cover Songs.                                    

Key Stage 4 - GCSE

Students doing GCSE music follow the Edexcel syllabus. KS4 follows on from KS3 with the three elements of Performance, Composition and Appraising.

In practice, few students take this course without considerable skill in an instrument and we therefore ask your daughter to be approximately Grade 4 on their main instrument at the start of the GCSE course. This will allow her to access the highest grades in the Performing component of the course.

Over the two years, girls will have lessons in composition and analysis. By the summer term of Year 11, girls will have submitted two compositions and be very familiar with the eight set works required for the Listening examination. There is an unseen element in the examination and girls will study a variety of other pieces to prepare them for this section.






2 performances:


Solo piece(s)

Ensemble pieces (s)

Total of 60 marks available:


30 marks for solo performance

30 marks for ensemble performance



2 compositions:


1 set to a brief

1 free composition

Total of 60 marks available:


(30 marks per piece)




4 Areas of Study with 2 set works in each

Exam at the end of Year 11:


Total – 80 marks

We expect pupils undertaking GCSE Music to take part in the wide range of musical extra-curricular activities that are offered at Beaconsfield High School.  There are also opportunities for KS4 students to become Music leaders and set up their own ensembles during the school week.  

Music Activities

The Music Department is a hub of activity during the school week. There are a wide variety of ensembles to be involved in whatever your grade and experience. Rehearsals take place before, during and after school.

Extra-curricular activities include:  Symphony Orchestra, Senior Strings, Senior Wind Band, Junior Wind Band, Chamber Choir, Chorale, Junior Choir, Baroque Choir, Year 10 Choir, Guitar Ensemble, Junior Strings, Advanced Chamber Ensemble, Intermediate Chamber Ensemble, Clarinet Choir, String Quartet, Soul Band.  For more information on the days and times of rehearsals, please view Extra-Curricular Activities.

Symphony Orchestra: Symphony Orchestra is a large group of players from Grade 5 and above. All students are expected to audition for their place with most woodwind and brass players being at least Grade 7 on their instrument. Previous music has included Saint Saens Danse Macabre and upcoming concerts will include symphony music from the Classical and Romantic periods.

Senior Strings: Senior Strings consist of the string section of Symphony Orchestra. Rehearsals are once a week, with repertoire from Vivaldi, Holst and Piazzola regularly tackled. Students interested in this ensemble must attend Symphony Orchestra and be approximately Grade 5 or above on their instrument.

Senior Wind Band: Wind Band is open to any student who is approximately Grade 5 and above. Rehearsals are once a week in the Main Hall. Repertoire includes music from The Incredibles, Eye of the Tiger and medleys by Queen and Aretha Franklin. Senior Wind Band perform in all the main school concerts as well as in assemblies.

Senior Flute Choir- This is an advanced group of flautists (Grades 6+) who meet weekly and perform a variety of challenging repertoire including Flight of the Bumblebee, The Entertainer and Pink Panther.

Clarinet Choir- Clarinet Choir is a senior ensemble which is available to students in Years 10-13, at a minimum of a grade 5 standard. Rehearsals are in the Main Hall on Friday mornings before school. It is a great opportunity for clarinettists to improve their ensemble playing with a wide range of enjoyable repertoire. There are lots of opportunities to showcase the hard work put in throughout the year by performing in school events such as the Winter and Summer concerts and the Carol Service.

Advanced Chamber Ensemble: This auditioned chamber group meet once a week under the direction of Mr Dan Dixon. Girls in this group are Grade 8+ and explore a wide variety of challenging classical music.

Junior Flutes- Junior Flutes is open to flautists in Years 7 - 9 (approx Grade 3+). We play a wide variety of repertoire, not only to perform in school concerts, but to gain experience of playing in a smaller chamber ensemble. 

Junior Strings: Strings is for all girls in Years 7-9 from Grade 2 upwards. This is a training ensemble for the Senior Strings and Symphony Orchestra and repertoire includes Vivaldi’s Autumn and The Ashokan Farewell.

Junior Wind Band: This is an ensemble which is open to all woodwind, brass and percussion players of grade 1-4 standard. The band rehearses every week in the Main Hall. They perform a variety of material from standard band music to more popular and contemporary works. Junior Wind Band perform in the main school concerts. 

Guitar Ensemble: This student led group rehearses on a morning before school. All ages and standards are welcome.

Soul Band:  A relatively new group with all players of around Grade 6+ standard.  This group perform popular music by artists such as Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson & The Supremes.  Rehearsals take place weekly, and the band are looking forward to several concerts this coming year.

String Quartet: This student run group consists of four of our most able string players. The students regularly perform at both internal and external events.

Saxophone quartet:  Saxophone quartet is a student led invitation only ensemble for 4 saxophonists across the school. The quartet rehearses once a week and aims to perform a variety of popular, classical, and jazz music arranged for the four players. Saxophone quartet is lucky enough to have the opportunity to perform in the main school concert, as well as any other performance chances that may arise. 


The Bel Canto Choirs

Chamber Choir: This is our top choir at BHS and is by audition only. Rehearsals take place after school on Fridays and repertoire includes a range of sacred and secular music including Vivaldi’s Gloria, Pergolesi, Palestrina, Folk Songs and madrigals. The Chamber Choir perform vaguely both in school and out in the local community. It is essential to have some sight reading experience and all members must also attend Chorale.

Chorale: Chorale is open to all students in Years 9 – 13. The choir rehearses every week in the Main Hall. The choir perform a variety of material from songs from the shows to contemporary choral music. Chorale perform in the main school concerts, on tour as well as play a key role in the Christmas Carol Service.

Year 10 Choir: The year 10 choir is a small choir which works on an invitation only basis and serves to develop the voices through a variety of popular and contemporary choral works.  The choir rehearses on a weekly basis in M23. The year 10 choir perform in the main school concerts, the Carol Service and in concerts on tour. 

Baroque Choir: This highly successful student led chamber choir was formed by a former Year 13 student, whose passion for classical singing led her to set up this group. The ten auditioned girls rehearse weekly and have secured a number of internal and external concert performances.

Junior Choir: This choir is for all pupils in Year 7 and 8 and is accessible for all singing experiences. We develop our part singing in a range of styles and work on vocal and choral technique – all preceded by some fun warm-ups to aid learning. Rehearsals take place on Friday lunchtimes and are supported by one of our Student Leaders. Songs have included South African songs, Carol of the Bells and When I Grow Up from Matilda.  



Music Tours Abroad

Music Tours are a popular and exciting experience for musicians of all ages and abilities. 2 years ago, girls and staff travelled to Prague to perform a series of concerts over four days. The ensembles on this tour were Senior Strings, Chorale and Chamber Choir and we were fortunate enough to perform in St Nicholas Church in the Old Town Square, the historical Colosseum in Karlovy Vary and the cultural centre in Nové MÄ›sto na MoravÄ›. All three concerts were a huge success and attracted appreciative audiences. When not rehearsing, tour is also a time for exploring the country and staff and pupils visited the Charles Bridge, Old Town, took in a boat trip on the River Vltava, and visited historic churches and the Jewish Quarter and Museum.

In July 2018, Chamber Choir, Baroque Choir and Chorale went on tour to Barcelona, where we performed in three fantastic venues, including Sagrada Familia and Barcelona Cathedral.

In July 2019, Wind Band went on their first ever tour to Belfast. Students performed in a wide variety of venues including Belfast Cathedral and at the Open Golf in Portrush


A year in the life of a remarkable Music department - 2018 revisited